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tv   U.S. Senate U.S Senate  CSPAN  December 20, 2018 1:29pm-3:30pm EST

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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. a senator: i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: mr. president, my montana colleagues, congressman gianforte and senator tester, and i have worked for years to bring federal recognition to the little shell tribe, for the first time we're one vote away from making it happen. congressman are gianforte sent bill through the house. when it came to the senate, senator tester and myself pressed it through the indian affairs committee also by unanimous consent. now with just hours left in the 115th congress, we need to pass this important bill out of the senate and get it on the
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president's desk. the little shell tribe has waited for lifetimes. they should not have to wait another year to get this done. therefore, mr. president, in the fashion of all the previous votes on this bill, with strong bipartisan support, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of the calendar number 574, h.r. 3764. i ask unanimous consent that the bill be considered read a third time and passed and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. lee: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: reserving the right to object, tribal recognition is a very serious matter, not one that should be taken lightly. given the sacred nature of tribal recognition and the significant impact it has both for the tribe in question and for the united states government as well as surrounding
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communities, we have an orderly process by which this needs to be done. in 2009 the bureau of indian affairs, having considered the argument by the little shell, concluded that they failed to meet three of the seven categories that typically are considered for tribal recognition and on that basis turned down their application. i'm not aware of -- while i am aware of, and it's been suggested that there is still an appeal pending, an appeal, a challenge to that finding by the little shell, i'm not aware of any legal analysis suggesting that the bureau of indian affairs got it wrong. this is not to say that congress cannot or should not or could not decide or its own to recognize that, yes, this is a power that congress has. and, yet, as i see it, those seven criteria ought to be considered and considered carefully. and i'm aware of no legal analysis indicating that the
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conclusion of the bureau of indian affairs in 2009 was inadequate or flawed. for that reason, i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. daines: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. daines: i greatly respect my friend and my colleague from utah's objection, but i do feel the need to point out that the little shell tribe meets all the necessary qualifications for recognition, including, including a long history predating 1940. let me enumerate. little shell is the only tribe in the country that has funds held in trust by the department of interior, yet lacks federal recognition. the little shell tribe, they are the only tribe that has had a favorable determination by the department of interior and it was reversed by a bureaucrat with zero negative comments.
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that decision, however, was remanded by the previous secretary, and secretary zinke strongly supports our efforts here today. the little shell have indeed existed as a distinct community, recorded as early as 1863 in the pambina treaty with the united states government. i ask unanimous consent to submit this treaty with chief little shell's name on it. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: the little shell entered this treaty with other bands of the chippewa creed. they all as well support little shell's recognition, and i ask unanimous consent to submit their records for the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: the little shell is also unique as all 12 of montana's indian tribes on our seven indian reservations also
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support their recognition. the little shell has the support of the entire montana delegation. it has the support of our governor. it has the support of our attorney general. mr. speaker -- mr. president, here are their letters. in fact, federal recognition of the little shell has enjoyed support from the congressional delegation and our state's governors since the 1930's and 1940's, when our country first began to federally recognize indian tribes. and the american indian policy review commission from later in 1977 recognized their plight as a distinct entity. mr. president, there are more documents for the record. clearly the record has existed in support of this tribe's federal recognition. i remember during my time in the
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house looking what they have been going through literally stacks and stacks of paperwork following a process. there is indeed long-standing evidence supporting their recognition, and i strongly disagree with my colleague's objection. the little shell tribe has seen lifetimes -- not lifetime -- lifetimes of neglect from our federal government. i had hoped we could finally deliver their recognition here today. we're just one vote short in the senate. i will not stop pushing for our government to rectify this injustice. i want to thank you, mr. president.
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the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: yesterday one of my colleagues came to the floor to talk about my objection to the unanimous consent request relating to the nomination of william r.efani ni. when i noticed this, i made it h clear my reasons for doing so and put my statement in the record for those reasons and i've done that consistently not only since the rules of the senate require every member to do that, but also even before
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that rule was ever put in place. so when i put a hold on a bill or a hold on a nominee, i don't ever want anybody to say put the adjective secret before the word hold because there's nothing secret about what i do when i place a hold on something. the judiciary committee has experienced difficulty in obtaining relevant documents and briefings from the justice department in the office of director of national intelligence. for example, deputy attorney general rod rosenstein personally assured me that the senate judiciary committee would receive equal access to information provided to the house permanent select committee on intelligence with regard to
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any concessions in its negotiations regarding pending subpoenas from that committee related to the 2016 election controversy. i have not received equal access on that front as promised. on august 7 of this year, i wrote to the justice department and pointed out that the house intelligence committee received documents related to bruce orr that we did not receive. the department initially denied that those records had been provided to the house intelligence committee. after my staff confronted the department on that misinformation, we eventually received some bruce orr documents. in that 2018 letter i referred
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to, i asked for documents based on my equal access agreement with deputy attorney general rosenstein, and as you might expect, i have not received a response to date. now this morning i had acting attorney general whitaker in my office for issues he wanted to bring up, but i also had an opportunity to present him three pages fairly finally printed with a -- finely printed, that they should be providing to me. and some of them have nothing to do with this hold, but they do have a pretty good record of not responding to this chairman of the judiciary committee on things that i have a constitutional responsibility to
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do and also a promise from these department heads that they would supply information when congress asked for it. so i have since learned, since that 2018 letter, that the justice department has taken the position that director coats has prohibited them from sharing the requested records with the committee. in addition to the records requested in may of this year, the director of national intelligence and the justice department provided a briefing in connection with a pending house intel subpoena to which no senate judiciary committee was invited. thus far the committee's attempts to schedule an equivalent briefing have been ignored. the administration's lack of cooperation has forced my hand,
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so then i continue to press for this hold on this nominee. my objection, if there were ever a request for unanimous consent to move ahead, is not intended to question the credentials of mr. evanina in any way whatsoever. however, the executive branch must recognize that it has an ongoing obligation to respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner. now to another subject, i would like to speak to the issue and several issues dealing with international trade. during the last two years there's been more talk about international trade in this town
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than just about any other point since this president has been president, or you might say over a long period of time in washington here. when i was elected to the senate in 1980 the general agreement of tariffs and trade, known as gatt, was the main guiding document on international trade. gatt was signed by 23 nations in geneva on october 30, 1947, a little more than two years after the destruction of world war ii. it remained the institutional foundation for global trade until january 1, 1995. that date is when the world trade organization -- or we refer to it as w.t.o. -- was born with 81 charter members,
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including this great country of the united states. the w.t.o. has been in place now 24 years, serving as a clearinghouse for our rules-based international trading system. since the start of the w.t.o., international trade volumes have increased by 250%. countries representing 98% of global merchandise trade are currently members of the w.t.o., with 22 more countries officially working towards joining. overall, the w.t.o. is moving global commerce forward, just as planned. the rules-based trading system it promotes has been very successful integrating people across the world into the global economy. i also must acknowledge that
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international trade can at times be disruptive. there are regions of the country that have been disproportionately impacted by job losses, at least in part to foreign competition over the last several decades. those losses become completely -- those losses become especially problematic when they're the result of market forces being overwhelmed by foreign government intervention -- any foreign government, as far as that's concerned. president trump has rightly pointed that out and is delivering on his promise to make trade fairer for workers across our country. for agriculture, international trade is the bridge to the world's customers. in iowa, we export every third row of soybeans. some people like to say that god
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made iowa for the growing of corn and soybeans, and i agree. iowa also has significant pork and beef exports as well. american farmers produce more than we can possibly consume here in the united states, so you understand then why the ability to trade in the freer trade as well is very important to us. so we rely on global customers. export markets are and will continue to be vitally important to iowa's farmers. i will make it a priority, as i resume chairmanship of the finance committee after about 12 years of not being that chairman, i'm going to concentrate on gaining access to new markets. the united states must continue
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leading the world on trade and economic issues. the u.s. market is one of the most open in the world. unfortunately, other countries throw up numerous barriers to our exports. president trump and ambassador light highser are working -- lighthizer are working to correct these injustices. i intend to assist them with this fight, with the understanding that creating market barriers of our own, like tariffs, is not a long-term solution. one of the top issues congress needs to address next year is the complementation of the -- implementation of the recently signed u.s.-mexico-canada agreement. that the updates nafta for the modern economy. the new trade deal with mexico
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and canada makes significant updates to the original nafta with new sections on digital trade, currency manipulation, and state-owned enterprises. it goes further than any other trade agreement in protecting intellectual property rights and makes important changes to market access for agricultural products. while i commend the president for following through on his promise to renegotiate nafta, there are a few areas of concern. they go beyond just those -- those concerns go beyond just the canada-mexico agreement. as long as 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum emoters from canada and mexico remain, the u.s. farmers and other facing
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retaliation, along with the american businesses that rely on those imports, will be unable to realize the full potential benefits of the u.s.-mexico-canada agreement. this is why i urge the administration to consult with congress, as intended by the trade promotion authority to ensure a clear path forward for u.s.-mexico-canada agreement. i intend to work with members of the finance committee and, of course, with the senate leadership to move the u.s.-mexico-canada agreement quickly in the new congress as soon the president submits it. but i can't do it without a strong commitment from the administration that we will work together.
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the constitution tasks congress with the authority to regulate trade with foreign countries. we collectively -- meaning the president and congress -- have a responsibility to ensure that u.s. farmers, ranchers, and businesses face minimal uncertainty from the updating of the united states-mexico-canada agreement. building on the success of this new agreement, we must continue to play offense and pursue new market access opportunities. that is why i'm happy the administration is pursuing new agreements with japan, the european union, and the united kingdom. the economies of those countries account for 27% of global g.d.p. having more access to those markets will help the united
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states farmers, ranchers, and businesses for generations to come. i expect the agreement with the european union and with the u.k., when ready, to address agriculture because there's some talk that the europeans don't want to talk about making any agreements on agriculture. the notion that some people in the e.u. think there could be an agreement that doesn't address the many ways they block our good agricultural products from being sold in europe is outright ridiculous. while i agree with the president that we must have fair trade that benefits americans, i want him to know as well -- and i've told him -- i'm not a fan of tariffs. put simply, tariffs are a tax on u.s. consumers and businesses. the constitution grants congress the authority over tariffs in
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international trade. but congress has delegated some of this authority to the president through legislation and, to some extent, particularly in the 1963 legislation too much authority was delegated. you know, i'm no novice when it comes to understand respecting the delegate -- understanding the delicate balance between executive authority when it comes to international trade. in the finance committee in 2002, and in addition to that and more recently, i strongly supported its renewal under the leadership of chairman orrin hatch in 2015. what was important then understand is remains truer now is that congress plays a central and pivotal role in crafting
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trade policy. our founding fathers were very explicit in placing this responsibility with congress in article 1 of the constitution. we must remain vigilant to ensure that the aspects of trade authority that congress has delegated are used appropriately and in the best interests of our country. i'm certainly not opposed to being creative in negotiations with other countries, but i strongly disagree with the notion that imports of steel and aluminum, automobiles, and automobile parts somehow could pose a national security threat, as the president's actions have stated. so i intend to review the president's use of power under section 232 of the trade act of 1962 which grants the president
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broad legal authority to impose tariffs in the name of national security. senator portman and my colleague, senator ernst, and others have already introduced legislation to narrow the scope of how an administration can use the power that congress authorized in 1962 under the influence of the cold war. and maybe considering 162 and the issue of -- and maybe considering 1962 and the issue of the now-forgotten cold war, there may have been reasons for congress to over-delegate power to the presidentment, but i'm not sure that those conditions exist today. i believe that these efforts to restrain delegation of authority to the president serve as a prudent starting point for the discussions we need to have on section 232 authority in the
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next congress. the tariffs against products from china that were imposed as a result of u.s. trade representatives' findings under section 301 investigations are not ideal, but i do agree with the reasons they have been applied. the president is absolutely right to confront china regarding section 301 findings. i'm glad that he had a successful meeting with president xi at the g-20 summits last month. my hope is that the ensuing negotiations will result in a change in china's discriminatory policies and practices and an easing of tariffs and tensions. i recommend everyone read the findings of section 301 investigations that were published march of this year
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that. report outlines in detail many of the ways that china abuses american businesses and workers and steals or forces the transfer of u.s. intellectual property. american businesses that are able to access the chinese market are as a result of these chinese policies often forced to participate in joint ventures with chinese termsst firms and turn over the details of their technologies. no one can call that a level playing field. now, the chinese claim is that this simply represents the cost of market access. my answer to that is, hogwash. that's not how members of the w.t.o. should act because it's an organization you joined based
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upon respect for other people's rights. but the most important thing is to respect the rules of trade. i voted in favor of china's accession to the w.t.o. and in many ways i regret that vote. china has 0 not lived up to its obstacles or honored its -- its obligations or honored its promises. yet it enjoys many of the benefits that come with membership in the w.t.o.. part of the reason that china gets away with so much in my view is that the w.t.o. systems that rely on have failed and are in great need of reform. the fact that china, the world's most populous country and the second largest economy on the earth, can self-certify as a developing economy -- that's a term used in the w.t.o.
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documents -- is extremely frustrating to me. can you imagine the world's most populous country and the second largest economy in the world is still somehow a developing country? i know many of my colleagues in the congress share that frustration. i have great interest in the w.t.o. reform process that has begun. reform and oversight are critical to the proper functioning of institutions. that is true whether we're talking about a federal agency or about the w.t.o. i'll also continue conducting rigorous oversight as chairman of the finance committee. the united states has free trade agreements in places -- in place with 20 countries. one problem we've had with our agreements is that other
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countries don't always live up to the text and spirit of the agreement that they sign. so i will work with the administration to hold our partners accountable in order to improve outcomes for american businesses and consumers. but more importantly than just american businesses and consumers is to get the proper respect for the rules of trade that come as a result of the w.t.o. in short, the finance committee has its work cut out for it and for us on the committee next year. international trade is a force for good. farmers and businesses in iowa and across the country have benefited tremendously from international trade and better off because they can sell their products around the world.
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i'm committed to making sure that they have access to open markets with the gash tease of -- with the guarantees of fair treatment and enforceable protection. i now would like to go to a final set of remarks, probably a final set of remarks for this congress as we draw to a close, and this would be to summarize some of the work of the judiciary committee as i have been chairman for the last four years. i served on the judiciary committee for each of my 38 years in the senate. four years ago i became chairman. senator leahy, my colleague from vermont who served as chairman before i took the reins, marked the occasion by presenting me with a
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larger-that-life gavel. of course that was a lighthearted moment and i appreciated his gesture of goodwill and collegiality. it's this spirit of camaraderie that sustains the united states senate and has guided the bipartisan accomplishments of the judiciary committee. the work 2003 do on the judiciary committee shapes our way of life in america to a great extent. this legislative jurisdiction includes constitutional amendments, bankruptcy laws, civil liberties, immigration, patents, copyrights and trademarks, antitrust laws, juvenile justice, criminal laws, and more. the committee conducts oversight of the justice department, including the f.b.i. and sections of homeland security department. it also handles consideration of
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judicial nominees. as chairman, i put forth a number of legislative priorities. i wanted to increase oversight efforts to hold government accountable and advance judicial confirmations. i wanted to strengthen whistle-blower protections and increase competition in the pharmaceutical markets to lower the cost of prescription drugs. i wanted to enact juvenile justice reform and update our criminal justice system. i wanted to protect elections integrity and bolster victims' rights. at the close of this congress, i'm happy to report that the committee has made progress on all of these areas. this week the senate passed the first step act, a historic criminal justice reform bill that had overwhelming bipartisan support in the congress and the backing of the president. and earlier this month the
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senate unanimously passed bipartisan juvenile justice legislation which legislation hadn't been updated since 2002. the elder abuse and prevention prosecution act, the missing children's reauthorization act, and the kevin anavantis law to help people locate people with dementia who warned and go missing became law during the 115th congress. overall, 61 bills were reported out of committee, all of them bipartisan. of those 45 bills -- of those, 45 were passed in the senate and 29 became law in the past two congresses under president obama and trump. and if the house passes our criminal justice reform bill
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today, that figure would be 29 -- would be 30 bills have gone to the congress. and again, i want to emphasize all were bipartisan. the committee also delivered on judicial nominees, and this wasn't so bipartisan. the united states senate confirmed a historic number of lifetime appointments to the federal bench this congress. that includes 53 district court judges, 30 circuit court judges, and two supreme court justices. 85 federal judgeships in the last two years, this reflects an all-time record for the first two years of any presidency. these lifetime appointments will uphold the rule of law and preserve freedom and liberty for generations to come.
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these accomplishments weren't easy. there was contention. there was rigorous debate. and as i said, plenty of disagreement. the confirmation hearing for justice brett kavanaugh was the height of discord on the committee. as chairman, i was determined to uphold order and the rule of law, protect due process and maintain credibility in our constitutional responsibility of advice and consent. i it took the allegations that were brought forth very seriously. the committee conducted the most thorough and transparent confirmation process in history. and if that word history bothers you, it's numerically justifiable by saying we had more documents on kavanaugh than we had on the previous five
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supreme court justices combined. so i hope out of 500,000 documents, it's shown that we left no stone unturned. in the end another extremely well-qualified justice was confirmed. however, the division that defined the kavanaugh hearings does not define the body of work produced by the committee this congress. the judiciary committee passed seven bipartisan bills to help families, health care professionals and law enforcement address the opioid crisis in their local communities. the president signed these measures into law with the support of patients and communities act. we also passed the comprehensive
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addiction and recovery act of 2016 to rapidly respond to the opioid crisis and prevent others from falling into addiction. with hearings and legislation, the judiciary committee also worked towards ending the pervasive problem of human trafficking. in all, the senate adopted a series of five bills that were signed in into law to enhance federal efforts to protect victims and prevent and prosecute enslavement for forced labor and sex trafficking. as a committee, we made great progress on behalf of the american people. we tackled the priorities i outlined at the beginning of my chairmanship and achieved success on a bipartisan basis. that's what our constituents expect of those of us who are
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senators. that's what i strive to deliver every day. so the 115th congress is drawing to a close. though i won't serve as chairman during the next congress, i have every confidence that my friend, senator graham of south carolina, will build upon the successes that we have accomplished. i look forward to continuing my service on the judiciary committee in the next congress, and i'm thankful to all of my colleagues on the committee and even some off of the committee, for their hard work and cooperation on behalf of the american people. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a oi.
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mr. menendez: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. menendez: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, yesterday christmas came early to the kremlin. first we have president trump's announcement to pull out troops
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of syria, second, the administration wanted to list three companies controlled by oleg, although i'm not sure he has adequately relinquished control of those companies. and he has done nothing about the russian aggression. this is a try effector for -- trifecta for vladimir putin. christmas has indeed come early to moscow. the trump administration's withdrawal from syria lacks any strategy. it's fool harded. and it puts israel at great peril. this is not simply an error, it's dangerous. it's dangerous. now, let me be clear, withdrawal from syria without success is failure. american credibility will take a horrible hit if the president
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moves forward with this decision. as a country we have said that assad, who has butchered his people, can't stay in power. well, assad is likely to stay in power into the foreseeable future. second, we have said that we cannot leave syria because we have strategic interests. by leaving and doing so precip sipt tishly, he will leave it in the hands of iran and moscow. it will have developed bases there and it will unfettered determination as to what to do. third, this move will strengthen iran's ability to attack israel. we're entering a very dangerous time as it is increasingly clear to all, including many of my senate republican colleagues,
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and especially our international allies and adversaries, that this president is completely incapable of addressing our security challenges. only in donald trump's parallel alternate universe has isis been defeated. there's no one who would suggest that that is the reality at this point we have made gains, we have had successes, but they have not been defeated. his erratic decision-making indeed poses a great threat to our security interests. trump tweeted that russia is, quote, not happy about his decision to withdraw our forces from syria. well, i guess he missed president putin's end of the year press conference where in his own words he showed this morning that russia is indeed thrilled with this abdication of u.s. leadership. i worry that we are sending the
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wrong global message as well if this plan is executed. the kurds have been the most significant fighting force on our behalf and in our interests in syria they have been our partners. by pulling out, we're abandoning them. turkey will come in and seek to destroy and they will be hit not only by turkey, they will be hit by assad, they will be hit by others. imagine the message that sends to other potential partners around the world, those who we say fight with us, fight for us instead of sending our sons and daughters. the message is once the united states is done using you, we will abandon you. we can't afford that message. any other place in the world where we want people to fight with us or for us and carry the
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burden of being on the front lines so our sons and daughters are not in harm's way, they're going to look at this moment and say no way. they'll say that the united states will abandon us. they'll say that the united states will leave us on the battlefield to die. now, as someone who has voted against the deployment of u.s. troops elsewhere, i don't take these issues lightly. i want our sons and daughters to come home as soon as possible, but by withdrawing these forces now with no strategy, the u.s. is placing our security and that of our allies at grave risk, and the sacrifices that have been made by our troops will be lost. russia has entered into this war in syria with an unholy marriage with iran. one, yes, to prop up assad, but also for iran it was to gain a
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tactical vantage point on israel's northern border. our withdrawal leaves a vacuum that iran will fill, putting israel at even greater risks. to believe that we can outsource our allies' interest to russia and that russia will tell iran leave -- leave now and syria, it's ridiculous. iran is not a simple agent of russia in this regard. iran has shed its own blood and national treasure in pursuit of its interest both to prop up assad and to have a vantage point on the northern border with israel and other places to strike at israel. it's not going to give that up simply because putin says leave. anyone who believes that has a clear misunderstanding of the realities of this relationship. completely withdrawing the use
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from syria at this moment with no strategy in place signals to the region and to the world that we are willing to cede our interests to putin, to iran, and to others who will exploit this leadership vacuum. in addition, president trump has been silent in the face of egregious behavior from saudi arabia, a behavior that this chamber spoke to in a unanimous way. he has no strategy for securing our interests around the world. it is all too clear who is winning. the kremlin attacked ukrainian ships and captured ukrainian sailors nearly a month ago. those vessels and sailors remain in russian hands. they're hostages, hostages who were taken at the high sea in international waters in violation of international law. and what has the administration done? canceled a meeting with president putin? canceled the meeting. that's it.
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it hasn't rolled out new sanctions on those responsible for the attack. it has not increased u.s. and nato presence in the black sea in order to preserve international maritime passage for all. it has not announced new security assistance for the ukrainians. one month has passed and president putin has felt zero pressure, zero pressure on any of these actions or to release these sailors, zero pressure to ease the tensions in the kurst strait, zero pressure to negotiate an end to the war in ukraine. in fact, putin seems quite at ease. his qerl press conference yesterday was a victory lap. he is already welcoming the evacuation from syria and calling for president trump to stand by his campaign commitment to also withdraw from afghanistan. he is doing it purposely to see
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if he can illicit the same reaction he has elicited in syria. this retreat has left vladimir putin with the globe of victory. he is winning in syria. he's winning with turkey. he's winning in the ukraine and trump wants to take our players off the field. this misguided withdrawal from syria drives that point home. putin's control of trump came into sharp focus yesterday, and i urge our republican colleagues to see this for what it is. small price that putin paid to interfere in our national elections has paid off in syria. it's paid off in ukraine. and the american people are paying the ultimate price. this is a dangerous time and our security lies in the hands of a president whoal respectfully say is clearly not up to the task.
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i have called on this administration and the last to develop and execute a clear and comprehensive strategy to promote our interests in syria. this means a comprehensive strategy to counter iran and its proxy networks who from hezbollah to the houthis have grown only stronger as this administration continues to bungle its way to one foreign policy crisis to the next. the president has the opportunity to reverse course and avoid a spectacular failure. he should listen to his military and national security advisors, none of which, none of which ultimately recommended this course of action. he should listen to our allies, none of which have recommended this course of action. he should invest in alliances and international institutions that multilaterallize and strengthen our reach across the globe.
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he should listen to this bipartisan chorus from congress. there have been voices on both sides of the aisle here who said change course. this is a grave mistake. he has an opportunity to avoid a grave mistake. i'll repeat what i said earlier today at a press conference with senator graham and senator reed. withdraw from syria -- withdrawal from syria without success is failure. simply withdrawing is not a success. withdrawing without success, with honoring the sacrifices that have been made by our troops there, with honoring -- without honoring the sacrifices that have been made by our allies there like the kurds, without recognizing the enormous civilian casualties that will take place in the aftermath, without recognizing that we lead a void for other particularly nefarious entities to ultimately
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fill that void, without recognizing that we create a risk for our ally, the state of israel and its northern border, without recognizing that at the end of the day, our strategic interests will be totally lost in this regard is indeed a great failure. i hope the president takes this opportunity to change course, to listen to his national security and military advisors and to the chorus of bipartisan voices in the senate including those of us who are engaged in national security questions, whether myself as the senior democrat on the senate foreign relations committee or senator reed as the senior democrat on the armed services committee, senator graham who sits both on armed services and is the chair of the subcommittee on foreign operations of the appropriations committee, these are bipartisan
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voices, among others, who are making it very clear that this is a grave mistake. we have a chance not to make that grave mistake and the consequences that flow from it. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and observe the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. perdue: i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, that is so ordered. mr. perdue: mr. president, we come to the close of the 115th congress. this will be my last speech in this congress. it's an honor to be in this body. it's a privilege that i take very seriously, as i know the presiding officer does as well. but today i come to talk about a topic that i told this body in
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my maiden speech was the reason i ran for the united states senate. and at the end of each year, i try to remind us all where we are on this topic. and that is, the financial crisis that the united states faces today. it's intertwined with the global security crisis that you just heard a speech on just a minute ago. and they're very much interrelatedded. today we have $21 trillion in debt. what makes that so important is that just this week, just recently, the federal reserve increased the fed fund rate one-quarter point. now, to most people, that really doesn't sound like a big deal. but this is the ninth increase just in the last couple of years. and just this one-quarter point increase is $50 billion of new interest that the federal government is obligated to pay every year. every year. and over the last couple of years, those nine increases
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represent 2.25% increase. so two and a quarter% on the interest rate -- quarter percent on the interest rate means $450 billion of new interest expense liability that the federal government has incurred over the last couple of years. now, mr. president, put that in perspective, we only raise about $2.2 trillion in total federal income tax. we spend about $700 billion on our military. only $200 billion on our veterans. mr. president, this is a train wreck and a crisis of full proportion. and here we are just last night passed our 186th continuing resolution since 1974 when the budget act of 1974 passed. that's one of our problems. combine that with eight years of lethargic economic productivity and you end up with a burgeoning
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debt crisis. it's projected that by the congressional budget office that at the current interest rates with no other interest rate increases, that the interest on the debt will grow by 2023, just five short years, we will be spending more on interest only than we will on national defense. mr. president, that cannot happen. the world bond markets probably won't let that happen. and here we are 2018. and how did we get here? in 2,000 at the end of the president clinton administration, this country had $6 trillion. in 2008 at the end of president bush's administration, we had $10 trillion of debt. in 2016 at the end of president obama's tenure, we had $20 trillion of debt. in that eight years, america added more to the debt than all other presidents combined prior
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to 2008. today the rate continues. we are at $21 trillion a day. in my office, mr. president, we have a debt clock that actually shows real time how this debt clicks forward every day, every minute. it's a sobering thing to watch. because this is a legacy that we're giving to our children and our grandchildren, mr. president. and there's no reason to let this go forward. we can solve this today. under the obama administration, mr. president, this -- over those eight years, the federal government borrowed about 30% to 35% -- a little less than 35% that it spent as a federal government. let me say that again. it borrowed almost a third of what it spent. now, to put that in perspective, the discretionary part of our budget -- we spent about $4 trillion a year, including all
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of our mandatory expenses. but only 1.3 of that 4.3 is discretionary. discretionary is about 25%. so if you're borrowing 30%, 33%, and you're -- your discretionary spending is 25% and all of your first moneys that come in go to pay for the mandatory expenses just like a car payment, a house payment, insurance payment, automatically deducted, that's exactly what happens in the federal government, mr. president. and so what we have is a situation where every dime during those eight years of discretionary spending walls by definition -- spending was by definition borrowed money. today we're not borrowing quite that much but the problem continues that most of our domestic discretionary spending is borrowed money. this is not lost on leaders around the world. our near peer competitors in russia and china pay attention to this.
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we cut our military spending over those eight years ending in 2016 by 25%, mr. president. that's one reason why you see a very active china right now in the south china sea. why you see russia being very active in the middle east is because of our enactivity and our withdrawal from -- enactivity and our withdrawal from the global stage driven largely because of the political position that that administration was in but i believe as well by the federal crisis we have relative to our debt. today if you look at the sources of our income and the uses of that income and our expenses, just on the federal budget side, we raise about $2.2 trillion of debt. the first three line items that we dedicate money to or allocate money to is a subsidy for the social security trust fund. now, this is the first year that's really happened. it was never supposed to happen. the trust fund was supposed to sustain itself forever indefinitely. it was supposed to be
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self-sustaining. the second item is medicare trust fund. now, the medicare trust fund has to be subsidized by the general account of the federal budget. and then third is this unlimited entitlement we have called medicaid under the affordable care act. it is an unlimited expense depending on what different governors decide to do and what the federal government has to do in terms of matching the funds that go to those states. those three line items alone, just those three, account for more than 50% of all federal income tax dollars that we collect. over 50%. mr. president, the social security trust fund is projected to go to zero, the balance of that trust is supposed to go to zero in 12 years. the medicare trust fund is supposed to go to zero in eight years. this is a situation that's exploding before us. discretionary expenditures have leveled out. those are being fairly
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controlled. what's not being fairly controlled are all the mandatory expenses. the social security expense, medicare, medicaid, pension benefits for federal employees and the interest on the debt. the fastest growing of all of that is the interest on the debt, as i just mentioned earlier. we've haded $450 billion of new interest expense just in the last two years. i believe there's a way forward. we've been talking about it. president trump said job one when he got elected was growing the economy. why? well, one of the benefits, we put people back to work. we get confidence going again and the economy going but it also raises more federal dollars for the federal government. the congressional budget office says if you grow the economy a hundred basis points more than we were growing during the obama administration which is only 1.9% over eight years, that that adds -- that one percentage growth adds $100 billion a year. we're growing much faster than that, mr. president. we're growing almost twice the rate than we -- the g.d.p. has
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grown almost twice the rate than it did during the obama administration. what that means is we have lowered the curve over the next decade of this debt cycle, this ever-increasing debt cycle, we have lowered the curve by some estimates as much as $3 trillion, mr. president. that's the first step. the second step is this budget process we are working on to try to fix. we formed a joint select committee this year of equal numbers of participants from republican to democrat, house and senate. while we didn't pass a bill coming out of that exercise, we did agree on several things that will allow us to avoid putting pressure on the end of the year that leads to these continuing resolutions and these omnibuses that are generating more and more debt. the third thing is we're done with agencies with excess spending. the department has provided the first ever in the united states history its own internal financial audit. now, there was a law written in 1991 that basically said this
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was required, but nobody has ever forced that to happen. secretary mattis and president trump have forced that to happen. and over the next couple of years, we'll be di jeesing -- we'll be digesting exactly what they're finding in that internal audit. you can't get a turn around if you don't know what's going on with the outflows. and that's exactly what we're doing in the department of defense. make this known that president trump has, yes, we've increased spending to get our readiness back, to recap our military, and to develop the capability we need to protect this country. but at the same time, he's holding the department of defense accountable for every single red cent it spends. the first step of that is this internal audit. as a member of the armed sfs committee and a member of the budget committee, this is in the wheelhouse of those two committees. every member, democrat and republican are interested in that audit and how it can make us much more productive and efficient in terms of how we spend taxpayer money.
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the fourth is we've got to after eight years of arguing about the health care insurance plan for individual -- the individual market which is about 21 million people, we need to start talking about the underlying cost drivers of our spiraling hill ht care costs -- health care costs. lastly, the fifth and final thing we have to do to address this debt over the next 20 to 30 years is we immediately have to save social security, medicare, and medicaid programs for our recipients that need those benefits. but we also have to secure them for the future, mr. president. and there are solutions out there. that's the good news today. the bad news, yes, this spiraling debt is still with us. it is absolutely the number one threat to our national security. there's no doubt about that. i believe that. secretary mattis believes that. the prior joint chiefs of staff believe that. but we've got to get the political will to face the american people and to tell us all that we have to have a plan
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over the next 20 or 30 years that will absolutely bring this back in to reason. one of my great colleagues in this body, a democrat, senator sheldon whitehouse from rhode island, has an idea to go out in the future and pick a date certain, agree on the debt as a percentage of g.d.p., and then move backwards with a guardrail plan on a road map to today to allow us to get there over time. i'm in full support of that. he has been a big ally in this effort to rein in the debt and develop a budget process that's sensical. mr. president, it's clear to me that after four years in this body, we've made some progress on this but not nearly enough. in six short years, one of our major trust funds, one of the major pillars of our social safety net system, the medicare system, that trust fund goes to zero. we deserve better than this.
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democrats, and republicans both agree on that. what we have to do now is translate that into cooperation on this floor this next year, to talk about compromise, to find ways to get through the extreme positions that this town and the media really encourage us to take. behind behind the scenes, behind that door right there, you know and i know that we talk in a different way than we do when year in front of the media. i i believe behind that door right there lie the solutions to most of these problems, where we can be cooperative and find common solutions to these problems. mr. president, it the last thing i'll say is this -- this country is not bankrupt. we have about $130 trillion of future unfunded liabilities, if you just look at the next 30 years. that is true. fortunately, though, on the other side of the balance sheet, we've got, some people estimate, well more than $250 trillion of
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assets. the question is, do we have the will to address the debt problem over some reasonable period of time, using our assets and our productive capability to make this country stable and financially strong again? not only do the citizens of the united states deserve this and need this, the rest of the world needs us. we're the most philanthropic country in the history of of the world, yet that's jeopardized by the intransigence in this estimate i believe we will solve this. we've got a good number of members coming into the body this next year. we have some great members who are retiring. it's time that this move up in the priority chain. i believe that the best days of america are ahead because this problem has solutions and we've got plenty of resources to do it. it just depends on the political will. and let me say this, too. i believe that with a
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democratic-controlled house, a republican-controlled senate and a republican in the white house, the american people have sent a message to washington and said, okay, guys ... it's time. this is one of the priorities. we'll see in this next year in the house decides to legislate or they decide to investigate. mr. president, i yield the floor, and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: and the clerk should call the roll. quorum call:
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